Blues Christmas lights up holiday

Big Hanks Band at Vernon Jazz Club Saturday, Dec. 8

John Turner

Special to The Morning Star

The blues is ready to light up your Christmas spirit, keeping you wiggling in your shoes as the Big Hanks Band comes to town.

Hank Lionhart a.k.a. Uncle Wiggly is front man of Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Blues Band. This year they celebrate 40 years on the stage with the most unique Christmas show you’ll ever witness. The seasonal material in this performance come from the 1920s through to the 1960s by the very legends of the blues themselves: Louis Jordan, Etta James, Asleep at the Wheel, Big Joe Turner, Eric Clapton and the Three Kings of Blues – Freddie King, Albert King, and B.B. King.

The concert is a tribute to the Blues Songs of Christmas, and is an uplifting collection of blues, swing, and R&B classics that will light up your Christmas spirit with a septet of exceptional musicians.

See latest Jazz Club concert: Moger brings swing-era stylings to Vernon

Lionhart is an integral part of Western Canada’s music history with a bluesy baritone voice that’s feels authentic and real. Raised in Steller, Alberta Lionhart grew up at a time when rock n’ roll began, and the British invasion swept the world. He joined his first band in high school at Edmonton’s Victoria Composite and has never stopped playing.

Lionhart’s professional start came in Edmonton in 1969 with several bands, the cabaret combo Sweet Salt, then New Coloured Rain, which toured all over western Canada. He also fronted that pioneering blues-rock unit Hot Cottage from 1974 to 1978 where he honed his craft and set out on his own.

Uncle Wiggly’s HSBB was formed in 1978 in Victoria, starting out playing the various pubs and dance halls around Victoria and on the Gulf Islands. In 1979 they released their debut album of mostly original tunes, produced by Powder Blues’ Tom Lavin in his Blue Wave studios in Vancouver. After some very strong sales the band was signed to RCA Records and in 1982 released their second CD ‘Here Come’s Another’. The group toured across the country and opened shows for likes of Muddy Waters, Joe Cocker, James Cotton, Paul Butterfield and Koko Taylor to name a few.

In 1983 the band dissolved, and everyone went their separate ways… about 10 years ago Uncle Wiggly “Hank Lionhart” called up the other members of the band with the idea of doing an annual reunion tour which they’ve been doing very year since.

The band has several albums, including their first new CD in over 30 years. Produced in 2015, ‘Still Burnin it Up’, is the culmination of a few treasured covers by the likes of Howlin Wolf, and the Bo Diddly Classic “Diddley Daddy” plus a few new and previously unrecorded originals.

The UWHSBB ‘s all-star line-up includes members Hank ‘Uncle Wiggly’ Lionhart (lead vocals), Mark Comerford (guitar), Steve Ranta (keys), Jack Lavin (Powder Blues bassist), Wayne Kozaj (sax), Bryn Badel (trumpet), and Andi Graffiti (drums).

Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Blues Band will be onstage at the Vernon Jazz Club (3000-31 St.) on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15. Cash-only bar on site. Tickets $20 online at and at Expressions of Time (2901-30 Ave) with a $5 rebate at the gig for VJS members. We are a volunteer-run organization. Please consider joining us.


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